In 2007, the Democrats controlling the Senate were fed up with George W. Bush’s recess appointments. Majority Leader Reid, feigning great sadness over the sorry state of our republic, resorted to the extraordinary tactic of keeping the Senate in pro-forma session so as to prevent the imperial Bush from doing an end-run around the confirmation process. The move was celebrated by liberal commentators as a brave and necessary assertion of congressional power and was supported by then-senator Barack Obama.
Fast-forward to this week. The Senate has once again been in pro-forma session in order to keep President Obama from making recess appointments. Reid agreed to the tactic as part of negotiations with Republicans last year.
Arguing that the maneuver is nothing more than a gimmick, Obama ignored the Senate’s authority and appointed Richard Cordray to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created by the Dodd-Frank legislation allegedly to prevent the excesses that led to the financial crisis. If it wasn’t clear enough that the appointment was nakedly political, Obama made the announcement at a campaign rally in the swing state of Ohio, Cordray’s home state.
With the alacrity one normally associates with court jesters and royal spittoon cleaners, Reid immediately endorsed the president’s decision, accepting the logic that calls a maneuver he invented a sham.
But the spectacle is so much more sordid than that. The CFPB is a constitutional affront, the crowning achievement of this White House’s mantra of never letting a crisis go to waste.